Thursday, August 31, 2006

So. The Pain

I think typing causes a great deal of my pain. In the last post I attributed the pain to weaving. So I stopped weaving on Tuesday 22nd August. However, this Monday, 28th August - a whole week later, I was in excruciating pain. I took painkillers (which I never normally do) and applied the anti-inflammatory gel twice... eventually I managed to fall asleep after being in floods of tears for about 2-3 hours.

I was so upset partly because it bloody well hurt, and partly because I'm scared for the future. If I'm like this at 25 what will I be like at 30? 40? What on earth will my career be? Part of the reason for applying for a part time PhD is because I know that I can't work fulltime right now, unless I'm working fulltime in say a clothes shop. Before I started my MPhil I was a successful college administrator running a department. I always thought I'd maybe go back to that but I can't - it involved far too much computer use. And really, most jobs nowadays do.

I'm also worried because I'm in a much worse state now than I was a year ago, and I hardly *do* anything now. My arms are just degenerating, despite all the rest and exercises that I do.

And what caused all that pain? Well, put it this way: I finished my first 5000 word chapter on Sunday evening, and spent Monday painstakingly looking up references for footnotes. I had been doing my exercises every 45 minutes, and Mr Bee has posited that maybe the exercises could be causing the problem too. It is possible that the stretches I do for my forearms is impacting on my tennis elbow (which was the Monday night pain). I haven't done any exercises since then, didn't go to yoga today either :( but I will have to restart some general stretching tomorrow otherwise the forearm pain gets bad.

Since Monday I've had a break from the computer by doing a lot of reading in preparation for chapter two. Tonight I'm having a 'catch-up on email' session, and then tomorrow I'll start chapter two. And I have to keep telling myself that during my breaks I don't have to feel bad about not doing any fabric crafts or web-surfing: I have plenty of other things to be getting on with, like going through all my photos and putting them in albums.

And I'm worried about the degenerating thing. I'm going to stop using the anti-inflammatory gel unless it is *really* required: I'll go with 10minutes worth of ice-application first. I don't like using strong medicines, and I do tend to use a lot of the gel. I don't know whether it can cause problems, but I've been using it off and on for a year now.

As for knitting (you know, for when I finish the photo albums ;) ), I'm not doing any until I've finished my MPhil. And then I'm only going to do 20 stitches a day. I plan to put a load of stitch markers in every 20 stitches on Tempting, and work on that. If I can manage 20 a day with no probs I'll move onto do a row of Branching Out per day, which is about 25 stitches per row. Any pain and I'll stop.

I'm sure I must sound like a boring stuck record (which is why I don't post on the Knitty forums anymore, LOL!), but if you do have pain you need to STOP. If you can catch it early then you won't be in such an unbelievable mess like me.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Uh-oh, it's that boring pain thing again

Well, I appear to have jinxed myself. Following the pain update the other day, I ended up with tennis elbow in both arms at the same time. Oh, how I chastised myself for returning that second tennis elbow band!

I don't want to admit it, but I guess weaving could be the cause, since it started after that. Well, I've done nothing arm-related bar typing and writing since the pain started, and now it is shifting somewhat. I don't know if fibre arts really are the cause, but I guess I really do need to try and lay off them until I finish my thesis.

And if weaving and knitting are both going to give me hurty pains, then I choose the knitting! Once I finish my MPhil I'll hopefully be starting a part time PhD. The part time job I get will be a non-typing one, so with any luck I'll be able to limit the amount of typing I do at the start of my PhD, and work on being able to knit.

I just keep stumbling across more and more breathtaking patterns that I must make! After seeing some pictures of the latest Rowan magazine, #40, I popped into House of Fraser today (sadly the LYSes in this town don't do Rowan wool, so I guess they don't do their magazine) to have a look at it. I am totally in love with so many of the patterns! Seriously, we'll be here all day if I list them all, but I especially love Aelf and Sadie, with Rosa, Cobweb and Dew coming in close second.

If I can only knit 25 stitches a day it will take me so long to finish everything BUT I WANT THEM. So if not weaving means I get to do 50 stitches a day, well...

I would like to finish my green woven scarf though - I'll take it very slowly and see how I get on.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Spot the deliberate mistake (OK - mistakes)

(and no, it's not just that I forgot to turn the flash off)

So: the looms. I have two - they are both small vintage child's looms, both cost under a fiver (inc. P&P) from ebay as well. I've only tried one, but it works really well, a lot better than I was expecting! The one in the picture is a Spear's loom, size 2. I've also seen Spear's looms in sizes 3 and 4, but they tend to be more expensive and a lot rarer; the bonus is that they're wider though. The size 2 is about 5 inches wide, and can apparently make lengths of up to 5 feet.

The other loom has a different type of heddle (the thing you thread the warp threads through to raise them up and down). It looks like it won't work as well as the Spear's one, but it should be better for using with my handspun, since it's a pain just to get double-knitting wool through the holes in the Spear's heddle, and my handspun is not yet consistently that thin.

I could barely wait to warp up the Spear's when I got it on Monday. I used some random acrylic in my stash, planning to make a pair of slippers, using up all the black yarn in the pictue above. Yep, that was mistake one: I used up all the yarn on the first slipper; it only occurred to me half-way through the actual weaving that to make a pair of slippers I'd have to make two - doh!

Mistake two was starting to weave at the wrong end, so I couldn't roll the fabric up - doh again! I actually ended up un-weaving all that I had done, and redoing it from the right end. It really doesn't take that long; well, compared to knitting a comparable piece.

And the fabric. Well, it's purty! As you can see it shows the warp and the weft, so I'll be able to do tartan designs. It's very sturdy as well, and smooth. I'm just so used to feeling knitted fabric that this is a nice surprise, but as it's rather stiff I'm not sure what sort of garments could be made from it.

Yesterday I warped up the loom for a skinny scarf, and today (so after weaving for about 2.5 hours in total) I thought I'd finished it... Only to find (mistake #3) that as you have to double over the warp threads I'd left this out of my calculations and made the blasted thing half too short. I've come to the decision to just make the second half separately and whip-stitch them together; I did intend to splice on new warp threads, but the idea of doing that 30 times with acrylic non-sticking-to-itself yarn really really bores me.

It's all a learning process I guess!

As for me and weaving: well, it has never appealed to me before. Quite frankly, I just couldn't see the point. However, after talking to the re-enactor woman in Wales the other week I realised that weaving could well be a use for my handspun, given that I can't knit with it at the moment (the jury's out as to whether weaving causes pain BTW - I've been feeling tennis elbow in both arms today, but it may be the excess typing). Then after seeing the Roman/Dark Age re-enactor's warp-weighted loom I went home and read about looms, before deciding to just give it a go with a cheap little loom (although I already have two bead looms they weren't suitable - other than for scrap weaving - as I don't have a heddle, and really, you need a heddle).

As it is, it's enjoyable, and the fabric is created very quickly. However, I just don't know how many uses I'd have for woven fabric. We don't need any mats, cushions or wall-hangings, and there's only so many scarves you can have. I have a couple of designs for skirts in mind, but the width of the loom is rather constrictive. I'm planning to try some blackwork embroidery on the woven fabric too, which could be fun.

However, since I've spent the past week emersed in book 10 of the Odyssey, writing about Circe, I feel an ancient connection with all the women of the past who had to weave everything. Yes, Pallas Athena is the Matron of Female Crafts (in the myth of Ariadne she turns Ariadne into a nameless creature because I'm terrified of them but they make webs because Ariadne claimed her weaving was better than Athene's, or some such hubris), but most of the Goddesses weave. Athene is my Matron Goddess though, so she is especially special to me. Weaving is a common theme in ancient literature, and crops up multiple times in the Odyssey - especially with Penelope fending off the suitors by unpicking her weaving (she said she'd only marry one of her suitors once she finished a funeral shroud for her missing-husband's father) every night. I'm trying to work weaving's magical properties into my thesis, but might have to save it for a further paper.

'They could hear Circe within, singing in her beautiful voice as to went to and fro at her great and everlasting loom, on which she was weaving one of those delicate, graceful and dazzling fabrics that goddesses make.'

The Odyssey, 10.221-223
Penguin edition trans. Rieu


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

One Year Anniversary!

Well, today is this blog's first birthday! I picked up knitting again 'properly' on July 2nd 2005 (while I was watching Live 8), and started blogging about a month and a half later on August 22nd. And got repetitive strain injury about two weeks after I starting blogging.

Still, it's been a fun, if frustrating and painful, journey. My knowledge of what goes in to make fabric has dramatically increased, I've learnt new skills in different areas of fibre arts... plus I have some great new clothes! I think the reason why I love knitting so much is that it turned out that I was quite good at it (if I am to be modest), as well as it being fun and new-clothesy. Let's just hope I get to take it up again, eh?

Actually, I think I will be able to knit again, even if it is just 25 stitches a day. Even though it will be excruciatingly slow-going, it'll be better than non-existant!

Anyway, I thought today was as good a day as any to have a pain update.

I have not now been knitting since June 26th, so nearly two months. I have spun once in that time; I've also been doing dress-making, weaving (both looms turned up yesterday! Weaving goes so quickly!!!), typing and writing - with a slightly heavier than normal pen (believe it or not, it does make a difference, *sigh*).

The tennis elbow, after switching from the right to the left arm, appears to have eased off in the past couple of weeks, which is a relief. Now I have pain back in my left under-forearm. It started mainly on the underside of my left wrist, but in the past few days has extended into my arm.

This is due to a combination of upping the amount of typing, writing with the heavy pen (but it's my favourite :( ) (...and I'm sure excessive scissoring didn't help either), and the fact that I haven't been doing my exercises often enough. I need keep up my exercises and keep the pain under control so that I can get my thesis finished.

I occasionally get pain in my upper right arm from the trackball, and right now there's some in the upper left (punishment for saying the tennis elbow had gone I guess ;) ), but the upper arms don't tend to get as bad as the lower.

I never thought that taking up knitting would affect my life to such an extent that I'd no longer be able to work behind a computer all day, or even have to curtail my hobbies. I certainly wouldn't have thought that a pleasurable and relaxing pastime would result in a year of pain showing no sign of buggering off! Que sera sera, eh?


Saturday, August 19, 2006


Argh! You know, I was beginning to think that maybe Athene was hinting to me that I need to work on my thesis - as Goddess of Intelligence that's certainly part of her remit, and it was beginning to feel like as Goddess of Weaving she was hiding my looms! I've bought two and so far neither have turned up - one was shipped out on 11th August as well. Deciding that enough was enough I've just turned the hallway upside down, and what do I find - a card from the postman saying my parcel was too big for the letterbox when he tried to deliver it on the 12th. Doh! I did look for a card, but this had snuck right into the corner behind an umbrella. Sigh. And it's too late now to get to the Sorting Office - I'll have to hope that it's still there on Monday.

This morning I've been doing some scrap weaving (gotta love those scraps) on my giant bead loom.

I have a vague idea that I'll make a load of woven-scrap panels and patchwork them together. Maybe. Of course, I had a lot more long lengths of scraps before I cut them all up the other day ;) but one of the joys of having an overlocker is that you tend to get lots of long scraps as you're trimming things down in dressmaking.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Creativity Overdrive

A couple of things you may know about me. I'm a procrastinator. I get obsessed by a certain thing and have to do it otherwise the world will end. I tend to start things and never carry them through.

Add those things together and you're getting a whirlwind of creativity at the moment. Good news is: my thesis has a structure and I've started writing - hoorah! But I find I keep thinking about crafting, making, need to do it now otherwise I can't concentrate on my books (honest).

So, in the past couple of weeks there's been the sewing thing, the weaving thing, and last week I discovered blackwork for the first time and just had to do some right then. I'm not really a fan of cross-stitch (though I have seen a couple of patterns on ebay that are tempting... but that's another story), but as soon as I saw blackwork I fell in love - it's so elegant! It's basically single-line patterns done in a form of backstitch-cum-running stitch. Luckily, I think I managed to fulfill the urge that evening, trying out this pattern of violets.

I have some fabric which has a really loose weave, which is suitable for embroidery. I don't have any embroidery threads here (I think they must be at my parents'), but I used regular thread instead. At first, I was quite disappointed with how it was working out. I was using 4 strands of white thread, and it looked crap. However, I switched the 2 strands of dark green and it's just glorious.

Since then, I haven't felt the urge to do any more blackwork, but I think when I finish my thesis I shall buy this little owl kit, since I love owls and the Little Owl and the Burrowing Owl (which looks like a Little Owl but with added cute burrowing feature) are my favourites. One thing to possibly prevent me from further embroidery is that I don't really know what to do with the finished object: I have no wish to hang it on my wall, and we don't really need loads of cushions. Blackwork would be nice embroidered on the edge of skirts or pinnies maybe... we'll see.

Talking of pinnies, I made another yesterday, using up the rest of those burgundy fabric remnants. This one has pocketses and cute machine-embroidery. Oh, and talking about not needing any more cushions - I started making a cushion too. This isn't as bonkers as it sounds. When I first went away to university [as an undergrad] I had bought some large fabric squares to make two cushions out of. I made one, but the other one has the slippery silver fabric I made my spinning pinny with as a backing, and it didn't like going through the sewing machine. Being far too lazy to sew it by hand, I decided to put it aside until I got an overlocker, and haven't picked it up since! So I will make that second cushion cover at some point. However, what I'm missing is the second cushion. What better use for all my scraps of fabric (oh, another thing to know about me - I don't throw things away) than a big cushion?

So yesterday evening I sewed some fabric together to make the cushion and started stuffing it with scraps. A bit like with the Jack Skellington cushions, small squares of scraps worked better than big bits. So I cut up all the scraps left over from making the pinny. Then I went round finding more bags of scraps to cut up, and by (ahem) one in the morning, I'd chopped up all the scraps I could find to put in the cushion, bar any really big ones that I may use for a patchwork skirt. I think I have scissor-blisters on my thumb! It was good to be crafty and declutter at the same time! ;)

Edited to add: Oh ho ho... I've just found a he-youge bag of scraps in the bedroom. Good job my thumb still hurts from all yesterday's chopping otherwise I'd never get any work done!

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Traffic Light / P.O.S.H. Gloves

When we went to Wales the other week (which I will write about soon) I saw all my siblings, and was able to give Friday his birthday present, just a couple of months late.

These were made from my stash, with my own ridiculously easy pattern. I had two teeny balls - one green, one red, and a bigger ball of black. I decided to just use up all the red and green for the cuffs (which is why the green cuff is wider), and continue on with the black (I still have some of that left). You may recall that I made the red-cuffed one during my department's Colloquium ages ago (hence it contains my first ever unintentional yarn over. What? It's hard to concentrate on knitting surreptitiously with a professor behind you, in semi darkness while listening to a lecture you have to strain to hear because the speaker is sitting down and you're on the back row so you can hide your knitting. And you have to put your knitting down to clap). The green one didn't get started for a long time after that, and then was very slow going with me only being able to knit a couple of stitches at a time.

And the name? Well, I thought they were good 'traffic light' gloves, being red and green. However, when I showed them to a friend she gasped, 'you've made Port and Starboard gloves!' Hence the Port Out (the Port side is indicated with a red light) Starboard Home (indicated by a green light) acronym.

And our 'ironic' picture:

I bought some fabric at the weekend so look out for some dressmaking soon. I am also waiting on one mini-loom and have my eyes on another... You have been warned!

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Spinning Pinny!

Here's my spinning pinny - it's silver so it looks jolly glam, LOL! Compared to the burgundy one it's so rough - the ribbon at the top is stitched on really messily, and I haven't neatened the edges at all. HOWEVER: it works! In fact, there was hardly any fluff at all! I think because it's such a slippery fabric there's nothing for the fluff to 'grab' onto, so it just gets spun up instead. Hoorah!

It's a bit of a crappy pose; unfortunately I'm just wearing a grey jersey nightie which I made when I was about 17 and that's not the neatest of garments either (see - I've always been a lazy sewer :P ).

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Burgundy Pinny

Here is the pinny I made the other day for cleaning in. It's a bit short, as it's the size of the scrap of fabric I found! I'm actually quite impressed with the finishing I gave it - the pinny itself has rounded corners with an overlocked rolled hem, and the waistband has been done neatly. Given that a) I'm usually quite slapdash in sewing and b) it's a garment which isn't really going to be worn on fancy occasions (!) it's even more impressive ;)

Yep - got tennis elbow in the blasted left arm now. Like my fancy band?

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

And I'm outta the zone...

It turns out that they're repeating The West Wing from the beginning on More 4, so I did do some spinning on Sunday evening. It, erm, didn't start off too well:

I have no reason why it suddenly went into over-twist hyper-drive. So I changed the drive band, using a different type of string. This one is a lot sturdier. I had been trying to use the smaller whorl setting to spin a finer yarn, but it obviously wasn't working!

After a while I got back into the groove and managed a respectable bobbin:

It always looks so neat on the bobbin doesn't it? However, it will have slubs and kinks in it. I need more practise! As it was, my arms didn't hurt, but after about 90 minutes my back ached under my right shoulder blade. Two days later and it's OK; I guess I should try to spin for 30 minutes at a time more regularly, rather than just going at it every now and then (maybe every West Wing!). I'm considering getting some kool aid to dye with, might make spinning lots of white wool slightly more interesting!

I'm really tempted to buy more bobbins for my wheel. Because it's kinky when taken off the bobbin it's always hard to ply my yarn with an Andean bracelet, and winding on to those toilet rolls is so time consuming. We'll see.

Finally the weaving bug took hold of me yesterday and I just had to get my small bead loom out and give it a try:

Not too bad eh? I'm tempted to buy a kid's loom on ebay, one that comes with a heddle, and see what happens. It would be cool if weaving were relatively quick and pain free...

I'm just interested in why I can't see the warp threads - how does one make, say, a tartan pattern? Perhaps the weft threads need to be thicker so that they don't all squish don't into each other and cover up the warp. I haven't managed to find a 'how to weave' website that's as clear as 'how to spin' ones are.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Bunnies & Pinnies!

Mr Bee has been harping on about getting a bunny for some time now. He especially likes Netherland Dwarf bunnies, as they are so incredibly cute. I used to have my own rabbit when I was younger who was considerably... non-dwarf. Anyway, at the moment we are somewhat limited by the fact that we have no garden and barely any space in the flat. I think if we had a rabbit it would probably live in the house, but we'd have a run for it outside as well. I know when I had my rabbit she got way more attention when she lived inside as a baby than when she moved outside.

The other issue we have is that Mr Bee, as stated, likes dwarf bunnies. Admittedly, I like those too... But, I'd kinda like a spinnable bunny ;) Mr Bee thinks that angora bunnies are ugly (though even he will admit that The Sanguine Gryphon's angora bunnies are soooooooooooooooooooo cute!).

So. Impasse.

Fear not! Today I discovered the Jersey Wooly - a cross between a dwarf and an angora (boringly named 'Dwarf Angora' in Europe apparently). All the cuteness of a dwarf with the spinnability of an angora!

Though having lived in a house with 3 long-haired cats and their resulting fluff, we may end up with a Rex bunny instead ;)

Today I've been cleaning and sewing. The sewing was a result of the cleaning - I realised I could really do with some aprons. I have one pinny that's for best (I bet not many 25 year olds say that nowadays), but none for actual cleaning/cooking in. Plus I like pinnies, especially ones with pockets. Since I only wear skirts I rarely have any pockets on my clothes, so it's good to be able to strap on some extra pockets!

So I made a little pinny for cleaning/cooking in. This is quite small given that I just used a random fabric offcut, and it happened to be small pinny sized! I had 4 offcuts the same size, and used one for the pinny and one for the waistband. I could put some tiny pockets on it with the waistband remnants, but they'd be pretty impratical. I may make another with the other two offcuts and put a pocket on that one. I'm wearing it now and pretty sure it already has lasange spatter on it ;)

The second pinny is more an apron: it's my Spinning Pinny! Now that we live in a relatively fluff-free house sans chats (see above), I don't like getting spinning fluff on my clothes. So I've made a full length apron of a very shiny fabric to wear whilst spinning, in the hope it will make fluff-disposal easier. It's not very well finished - I haven't even neatened the edges with scissors never mind hemmed it, but it should be functional.

I do need one further pinny - a full, calf-length one. I realised once I'd made the little one why I'd decided to make a pinny today - to help me do the laundry! Both our laundry baskets are full of random crap, so when I get the clothes out of the washer I put them all in my skirt. Which is fine when I'm wearing a full long skirt, but today I was wearing a mid-thigh nightie (what? It's a Sunday!) which wasn't really practical! So one further pinny shall be in the works, and then I may just make more from funky fabrics to wear for extra pocketses.

Photos to follow shortly!

Depending on what's on TV tonight I may try some spinning (if it's all crap I'll have to do some work) as I don't think it hurts me. I realised after yesterday's post that weaving would be a perfect way to use up my spun yarn! I haven't felt like spinning recently as I can't do anything with the finished yarn other than look at it or give it away. But weaving might work... I've found instructions for a warp-weighted loom ;) but may try something less ambitious. I have a giant bead loom, so may try and convert that and see how I get on!

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Saturday, August 05, 2006


We had a day trip today to Chedworth Roman Villa. It was just a spur of the moment idea, but when we got there it turned out that there was a Romano-British/ Dark Ages craft demonstration on. Actually, most of the tents were closed up - I don't know whether they were just there for show or whether it was lunch time for the re-enactors ;)

Earlier that morning, by chance, I had done a teeny bit of spindling. I'll have to take a photo of my spindle at some point. At the museum villa they had some examples of spindle whorls from the Roman period found at the villa:

The massive stone ring on the right isn't a huge whorl, it's a loom weight. I'm quite interested in how the weighted looms work (following a conversation with another re-enactor in a castle in Wales which I'll blog about later who didn't appear to think that looms were invented until the industrial period!???). And just my luck - it appeared that there was a weaving tent at the villa!

So we wandered over and saw a working forge, which was fun, and then over to the weavers. There was a weighted loom set up, and a dye-pot bubbling over a fire, but both were unattended. There were two women sat spindling, and two girls plaiting their hair. I wanted to talk to them about the loom and the spinning, but don't think they were in the mood. It took ages for me to catch their attention to ask a question (about whether there were any top whorl spindles), but the answer was a brief 'not this period' sort of thing.

I just gave up at that point and left - irritatingly I even forgot to take photos of the loom. I'm just kicking myself for being cowed so easily: I should've asked more questions! It was just hard when they were all talking amongst themselves... Ah well, I'm a knitter, a wheel spinner and a top whorl spindler - totally the wrong period - even I am doing a post-graduate degree in Classics ;)